Shaping a “revolutionary” new government

In his victory speech Viktor Orbán said quite a few things that are difficult to interpret or, if one is less charitable, are nonsensical. Among these is the assertion that a revolution took place at the polls. Nothing of the sort happened. A democratic election was held that resulted in a very large victory for one of the parties. Some people consider this reference to a "revolution" a gesture to those Hungarians who either voted for Jobbik or who voted for Fidesz but sympathize with the far right.

However, once one mentions the word "revolution" there is the expectation of revolutionary changes. After all, "revolution" in both Hungarian and English means in this context "a fundamental change in political organization." Surely the replacement of one government with another within the framework of a democracy cannot be called a revolution. He also said some silly things about the "destruction" of the old regime that has finally happened, twenty years after the "change of regime" that took place in 1989-90. A regime cannot be changed. It must be destroyed, said Viktor Orbán.

Orbán's reference to this election as "earth shaking" is surely an exaggeration. At the moment the Greek crisis has a much more serious effect on the world than Fidesz's great electoral victory.

And finally, there were three Latin words in the speech that raised some eyebrows. Since Orbán "found God" he likes to quote the Bible. Admittedly, the Bible is a great source for speechmakers, but Orbán often uses the Bible in a way that some people have deemed blasphemous. A few years ago he finished one of his speeches with the same words Jesus used to send his disciples forth to spread his teachings. But at least this was in Hungarian. This time around, however, he drew from the Vulgate (Matthew 6:10): "Thy will be done," or in Latin: "fiat voluntas tua." He changed it to "vincit voluntas tua." Thus instead of "Thy will be done," it was changed to "Thy will wins." Considering that Orbán learned no Latin in high school, the source of this bastardized Biblical quotation is most likely the Reverend Zoltán Balog, a member of parliament and apparently the spiritual advisor to Viktor Orbán. Several analysts found this quotation telling. Eszter Babarczy, who actually championed for a landslide Fidesz victory, wrote a linguistic analysis of these three words. József Debreczeni also found it peculiar and wrote about it in "Lord's Prayer."

So, let's see how this "revolution" is progressing. We were promised a very speedy government formation but the process has been slow. Orbán drops a name or two here and there, but otherwise we are in the dark. One day he talked about "super ministries," but two days later we were told there would be no super ministries. There was talk about two deputy prime ministers but by yesterday there was only one: Tibor Navracsics. Moreover, there is a bit of a problem with this deputy prime minister business: the Hungarian Constitution doesn't know anything about its existence. So, if Orbán is serious about creating a deputy then parliament will have to change the constitution. As we know, with the two-thirds majority that is no problem. I find the idea rather repulsive, mostly on historical grounds. With the exception of the Soviet dominated period, there was never such a position as deputy prime minister. Poor József Antall is undoubtedly turning in his grave. He was such a stickler for historical precedence.

Tibor Navracsics is going to be a very busy man. He will be deputy prime minister responsible for the operations of the entire cabinet (analogous, I guess, to the chief operating officer of a company). In addition, he will be the minister of justice. The question is: what will Viktor Orbán do then? It seems that he will be in charge of communication with "the Hungarian people." He will have his own spokesman, Péter Szijjártó. The government's spokesman is not yet named; it will be Navracsics's job to come up with someone. It is almost as if Navracsics were the actual prime minister while Orbán himself is something like the president without the title. It is a good question whether he will actually take part in parliamentary debates or whether interpellations will be addressed to Tibor Navracsics. I guess this way Orbán will not be in the uncomfortable position of being forced to answer, let's say, Ferenc Gyurcsány in the House.

Some analysts think that by putting Navracsics between himself and the cabinet, Orbán will be able to save his popularity. If something goes wrong Navracsics will be blamed. Perhaps that is his intention, but I doubt that a prime minister can shirk responsibility for the functioning of his government by claiming that he's not really in charge. If things do not go according to expectations, the people will blame Orbán regardless of the existence of a deputy prime minister.

Mihály Varga, who was mentioned as the possible head of the ministry of economics or the ministry of finance, will have to be satisfied with being an undersecretary in the Office of the Prime Minister. In earlier governments the Prime Minister's Office was headed by a minister, but it seems that for one reason or another Orbán is putting less emphasis on this job. By the way, he changed the name of the office. Instead of Miniszterelnöki Hivatal it will be called Miniszterelnökség! Wow!

Zsolt Semjén, chairman of the Christian Democrats, was also mentioned as a possible deputy prime minister but so far we have heard absolutely nothing about his future role. One thing is sure: he will no longer head the Christian Democratic caucus because we already know that he will be replaced by Péter Harrach. The KDNP caucus will be larger than before, which is neither here nor there. Simply more Fidesz representatives will be sitting with the Christian delegation. Why the silence about Semjén's future? There might be some disagreement between the two party leaders. Perhaps Semjén wants more than Orbán is willing to give. After all, Semjén doesn't have a real party behind him.

Apparently, we will get more details about the structure of this revolutionary government on Monday, but I already have some reservations about the future role of Viktor Orbán, the prime minister who is not.

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Your last comment strikes me as a bit rich. You would have reservations no matter what role Orban chose for himself.
I would think you should be happy that he seems to be trying to remove himself from real day to day politics. I find this decision not surprising, but of course ridiculous. This is a person who wants power and the title but not the responsibility. The good news is that instead Hungary can be managed day to day by people actually interested in policy and the tough issues that face the country and the government.

Eva S. Balogh

NWO: So, you think that Orbán is actually not very good at governing but Navracsics and crew will be. But the problem is that from behind the scene it will be Orbán who will be pulling the strings and most of the people around him are no more than yes-men.
So, I’m less optimistic than you are.


Eva, is there any significance to the name Miniszterelnokseg? To my ears, it has an archaic ring, and a bit of googling suggests that it was the name of the inter-war period Miniszterelnoki Hivatal. Is that correct?
Otherwise – the superministry idea looks a bit cosmetic. You can rechristen ministers state secretaries, but I bet they’ll be moving into the old ministers’ offices. And from there it’s but a short step to drawing ministerial salaries as well.

Eva S. Balogh

Alias3T: “Eva, is there any significance to the name Miniszterelnokseg? To my ears, it has an archaic ring, and a bit of googling suggests that it was the name of the inter-war period Miniszterelnoki Hivatal. Is that correct?”
You’re perfectly right. Yes, it has an archaic ring to it but otherwise the renaming has no significance. However, they might restructure the office. They may make it smaller and serve only the needs of the prime minister. I guess in that sense it will resemble the “miniszterelnökség” of the interwar period. However, I can’t imagine that it will be as small as it was then.